During a wedding rehearsal, the groom approached the pastor with an unusual offer. “Look, I’ll give you $100 if you’ll change the wedding vows. When you get to the part where I’m to promise to ‘love and honor, and forsaking all others, to be faithful only to her,’ I’d appreciate it if you’d just leave that part out.” He slipped the pastor the cash and walked away. By the way – if that ever happens to me – I would not perform that wedding. Just so we’re clear.
The next day – the day of the wedding – when it came time for the groom’s vows – the pastor looked the young man in the eye and said, “Will you promise to prostrate yourself before her, obey her every command and wish, serve her breakfast in bed every morning of your life and swear eternally before God and your lovely wife that you will not ever even look at another woman, as long as you both shall live?”
The groom gulped and looked around and then said in a tiny voice, “I do.” After the ceremony, the groom pulled the pastor aside and hissed, “I thought we had a deal.” The pastor gave him back his $100, and said, “We did; but the bride’s father made me a much better deal.”
Let me tell you another story. This one is true. Years ago when Johnny Carson was the host of The Tonight Show he interviewed an eight year old boy. The young man was asked to appear because he had rescued two friends in a coalmine outside his hometown in West Virginia. As Johnny questioned the boy, it became apparent to him and the audience that the young man was a Christian. So Johnny asked him if he attended Sunday school. When the boy said he did Johnny inquired, “What are you learning in Sunday school?”
“Last week,” he said, “our lesson was about when Jesus went to a wedding and turned water into wine.”
Johnny then asked, “And what did you learn from that story?”
The boy squirmed in his chair. Apparently, he hadn't thought about this. But then he lifted up his face and said, “If you're going to have a wedding – make sure you invite Jesus!”
Now think about that for a minute. If you’re going to have a wedding, make sure you invite Jesus. If you’re going to have a marriage, make sure you invite Jesus. If you’re going to have a family – or a career – if you’re going to have a life – make sure you invite Jesus.
As we take a look at this second chapter in John’s Gospel, we find that Jesus is just getting started in his ministry. And on this particular day we find that Jesus and his disciples and his mother, Mary, have been invited to attend a wedding in Cana.
Now, you need to understand that the Jews of Jesus’ day attached great importance to these kinds of celebrations. And what I find fascinating is that the typical wedding feast could last up to seven days. Seven days! And it was an event that was celebrated by the entire community.
Now, at this particular wedding, there is a shortage of wine. Not only is that a social embarrassment, but it is also a symbol. For a wedding to run out of wine was an omen – a sign of bad luck if I can use that phrase – for this newly married couple.
Now as far as we know, Jesus is about 30 years old here. He has just started gathering disciples to follow him. Perhaps he has just begun to teach here and there. But he has not yet performed any miracles – anywhere. At least not publicly anyway.
But here, on this day, in an event that begins his public ministry, Jesus takes ordinary water and turns it into the finest of wines. Or as we learned in our ALPHA class on Monday, Jesus turned water into a ‘45 Bordeaux. BC. Whatever! What we do know is that it was the best of wines.
Now I want you to notice that there is nothing dramatic about this miracle. It is not widely experienced like the one he would perform when he fed more than 5,000 people with just five loaves of bread and two fish. It does not involve life and death as his final miracle would when he raises Lazarus from the dead. No. Just a simple – Yeah right, simple! – but just a simple turning of water into wine. And the only ones who know about it are the servants who filled the jars with water, and the disciples and Mary who watched the whole thing happen.
Now, Jesus does this at the urging of his mother, Mary. When she finds out that they have run out of wine, she goes to Jesus, and says, “Guess what, son! They’ve run out of wine.” And Jesus says, “Aw, Ma! What do you want me to do about it?” Well, something like that.
And she says, “Listen to me. I’m your mother. Do something about it.” And then she turns to the caterers and says, “Hey! You see that handsome guy over there – yeah – the one with the scruffy beard. That’s my son. If you want more wine – listen to him and do whatever he tells you.”
And it makes you wonder if Mary knew that Jesus could just whip up a batch of wine at will – or whether she simply expected him to go out and get some. We’re not sure what she thought he might do – but hey – Mary knows who her son Jesus is – and like every Jewish mother – she knew there was nobody like her son Jesus. Why – as far as Mary was concerned – Jesus walked on water.
All joking aside, I tend to think she knew. At Christmas time we like to hear the song that asks, “Mary did you know?” And I would like to suggest that it’s apparent from our Gospel reading today, that yeah, she probably did know. And thus we learn that this is indeed the first of the miracles that Jesus performs.
But why this one? Why this one? Listen again to how this passage ends.
Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. It says that through this sign or miracle, Jesus revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him. Again, nothing spectacular like the feeding of the 5,000 or raising the dead back to life. The wedding guests have no clue that a miracle has even occurred. But Mary knows. The servants know. The disciples know.
May I suggest to you that this sign – this miracle – helps us to understand something of who Jesus is. That what he does that day in Cana shows that he cared. He cared about what was going on. His presence makes a difference. His touch can change something ordinary and turn it into something extraordinary.
And what Jesus can do with something as common as water – he can do for you and me. Listen! Let me ask you something. Has there ever been – or is there something going on right now in your life – when you feel like the wine has run out? Sure you have. I know you have. I have too. A son or a daughter rebels or disappoints you. You’ve had a fight with your husband or your wife. Life in general has been unkind at one time or another. Maybe it’s your job – or lack thereof. I don’t know, but something has happened and you’ve hit a major bump in the road.
You’ve run out of wine.
It happens. For the most part, my experience of life is that life is good, but still, shtuff happens. Yeah, you noticed that I didn’t use that other word there. But stuff happens – and we – we run out of wine. So let me ask you, what are you going to do when the wine runs out? What do you do? To whom or to what do you turn?
It is a sad truth that there are some folks who don't come to God until they have a need – or there’s some kind of emergency. God – Jesus – religion is for some people a 911 affair.
And yes, Jesus is there for us in our 911 moments. Jesus is there especially when we need him the most. And in those 911 moments it is good and right that we do come to him. But I want you to know that Jesus is here for us not just when the wine runs out – but all of the time. Whether things are going just about as smoothly as you might hope they would – or whether you come drained and exhausted.
I want you to know that no matter what’s going on in your life right now – whether your wine vats are full or empty – I want you to know that you can come to Jesus. Better still, like the little boy told Johnny Carson, no matter what’s going on in your life right now, make sure you invite Jesus into your heart. Into your life. Into your home. His touch – his presence – can make a difference. In your life and in mine.
By the way – if I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be standing in front of you today. I wouldn’t be standing here today telling you that Jesus has come – and that he still comes to us. He comes to us in His Word. He comes to us in water and in bread and in wine. He comes to us in the time that we spend together being the church. You know. Wherever two or three or more are gathered in His name – there He is right there with them. And Jesus is with you in your alone times as well.
And that’s important. Why? Because Jesus is still in the business of touching hearts, and changing lives, and making a difference.
In Cana of Galilee, Jesus performed a miracle when he took ordinary water and turned it into the best of wines. But let me suggest to you that the real miracle – the real miracle – is what happened in the lives of those who followed him. And who – because of this miracle – believe in him. When Jesus takes ordinary fishermen like Peter and Andrew and James and John; when he takes an ordinary woman like Mary Magdalene – and transforms all of them into bold disciples – new creations – I’d call that a miracle.
So when the wine runs out – and we turn to Jesus – and he makes something new and different in our lives – something new and different with us – when that transformation that we like to talk about around here happens in someone’s life – might that not be a miracle too? From what some of you have told me about miraculous turn-arounds in your own lives – I’d have to say the answer is, “Yes!”
Hey! If Jesus can turn water into wine – can’t he – won’t he – turn our old – sometimes weary lives – into something new? You bet! And that’s why we can say – in Christ – we are a new creation.